Maneworthy is waiting patiently outside when I emerge.
I decided on formal. Choosing anything else for a meeting with royalty would be a foolish notion.
With that in mind, I’ve got long pants and a buttoned shirt. They both fit well, and keep with dark colours. I have to say that the similarity between Equestrian-made and Earth-made human clothes is unsettling.
Rarity is very good at her job.
“Excellent choice.” Maneworthy compliments the clothes, although his voice is still tinged with confusion.
I don’t have time to explain all of the strange quirks and nuances of human society, and make do with a weary look.
The doctor nods, and then turns to lead me up the hall. “We must hurry. I believe that they’re expecting us.”
“It’d be bad form to leave the princesses waiting.” I agree, falling into step with Maneworthy – which is harder than you would think. Walking with him is simple enough, but if I happen to focus on the doctor’s hoofsteps, then I get thrown off.
The halls in the clinic are so clean. It’s unbelievable how immaculate every last surface is.
I like it. It’s a shinning example of how much… better… Equestria is than earth.
“So, have you been enjoying yourself?” Maneworthy starts up some idle chitchat.
‘Why not? I can gab a little.’ I think to myself, before replying with a nonchalant “Well enough – although things are kinda boring. I’m going a little stir-crazy.”
“I can imagine.” Maneworthy chuckles. “Personally, I think you’re well enough by now to go out and spend some time in the city – with a carer, of course.”
“The city, eh?” I return the chuckle. “That’s a big step. No-pony’s even let me out of the ward yet.”
I pause. Now it is starting to sound like I’m complaining. Time to change the subject.
“What about you, doctor? You haven’t told me much about yourself.”
“Neither have you.” Maneworthy responds cheerily. It isn’t enough to disguise the point to his jab, but I still ignore it.
“True.” I unsubtly deflect the question. “So, are you married? Any ki- Uh, foals?”
Maneworthy nods, accepting that I’m still not willing to talk. “Married to a wonderful mare – Light Wing.”
“A Pegasus?” That interests me. I would have thought that their lifestyles would be too different.
“Yes.” Maneworthy hums thoughtfully. “My family didn’t exactly approve. They thought marrying a Pegasus would get in the way of my career.”
I grin. “And here you are. Personal physician for Celestia herself.”
“Indeed. Needless to say, the family reunion that year was a little awkward. It didn’t help that there were no other Pegasus.”
“Love is blind.” I look around. I haven’t been in these halls before – although they still look a lot like the ones around my room. The only change is in the signs and names on the doors. “So, any foals?”
“Soon.” Maneworthy seems to bristle with pride. I may not be a full adult myself, but I can always appreciate the radiant happiness that a soon-to-be father always gives off while they’re boasting. “Only two more months.”
“Congratulations.” I nod enthusiastically. “I’m sure you’ll be very proud. I doubt your wife could be in better care, all things considered.”
“Oh yes. I’ll make sure Light get’s everything she needs – and because we live in the palace, she gets waited on hoof and hoof.”
“The perks of the job, eh?” I’d be lying if I said I was still engrossed in the matter, but I’m too polite to change the subject so quickly. Right now I'm more interested in the expression 'hoof and hoof'. It sounds ridiculous.
We come to the stairwell, and Maneworthy starts to lead me downwards, still talking.
“To be honest, I’m not sure why she insists on having a midwife. She’s in the palace, and I’m always available. Taking care of you is the most work I’ve had to do in quite a while – after all, the princess doesn’t get sick all that often.”
“Mmmhmm.” I hum, looking around at the immaculate stairwell as we arrive at the ground floor. “So, this meeting is at the palace, right?”
“Great.” I tug at my shirt, adjusting my collar ever so slightly. “Looks like I finally get to go outside.”
The lobby is just as clean as the rest of the hospital. By this point, I should probably stop mentioning how clean everywhere is, and instead only take note if something is dirty.
The receptionist smiles at both of us. She’s a rather standard looking young mare, complete with a generic cutie-mark and a dark blouse. A background pony if ever I saw one.
“Good morning Doctor Maneworthy.” She says politely, before suddenly stumbling over my greeting. “Good morning – uh, Piano Man.”
I smile ever so slightly. Random ponies passing in the street shout those words at me every day, and even though it does make me cringe mentally, I refuse to hold it against him. In the hospital, everypony tip-toes around me like I’m made of fine china. She’s the first pony from inside the hospital to refer to me as anything since I woke up.
In conjunction with the taboo I’ve perceived to be associated with those words, Maneworthy’s head snaps around.
“Miss Manila, you of all ponies shouldn’t need to be reminded that we are to…” He trails off, and glances at me. “Oh, uh… Why not go have a look outside? Don’t move to far or fast, and sit down if you need to. I’ll be along shortly.”
“Sure.” I produce a grin that looks roughly on par with a grimace. “But really. It’s not that bad.”
“Be that as it may, but instructions are instructions.” Maneworthy responds. “And in this case, they have not been followed.”
“I hardly think not mentioning that… name, needs to be an instruction.” I can already tell my inability to actually voice the words has doomed my argument.
“Indeed. It’s obvious enough that anypony should know not to do it without being told twice. Please, just go ahead.”
I shake my head in disbelief, and then shoot a sympathetic glance at the receptionist, who has been sitting in a nervous silence during the exchange. Maneworthy can show some real backbone when he wants to, and arguing with him when he does is hopeless.
I decide to push the matter from my mind, and simply allow the doctor to berate Miss Manila. She did disobey instructions, so who am I to interfere in a job I don’t even understand?
I briskly walk away, feeling extremely sorry for the young mare. I don’t even get to hear the beginning of the lecture, as Maneworthy waits until I am well out of earshot – as in, outside the doors.
As soon as I’m outside, I forget about the young mare anyway. The air is cool, and the sun is bright. Another perfect day in Canterlot.
There’s a certain amount of freedom in being out in the small plaza without barely anyone around. Of course, I’m already enjoying the wonderful sensation of freedom, and have been for the past three days. This is a different kind of freedom, though.
This is a freedom from my carers. For the next minute or so, I won’t have Maneworthy or some nurse breathing down my neck about not overstressing myself. I know my own limitations, and I have my walking stick. As far as I’m concerned, I’m fine for a bit of a stroll.
I take a few hobbled steps forward, the action looking strangely humorous with my wooden walking stick, young face and moderately formal attire. In a way, I look like a walking contradiction – which of course has nothing to do with the fact that I’m the only human in a world full of colourful talking ponies.
The air is slightly warmer down in the plaza, where the mountain winds have a harder time getting at me than up on my balcony. I’m not complaining either way, but it’s just something to observe and take note of. It’s the small details like that which convinced me I was really here. You never take notice of things as minute as the wind or the way sunlight reflects of an object in a dream.
I open my mouth and take a deep breath. The ponies in the street haven’t noticed me yet, but they probably will. I have a very distinct figure, believe it or not. I can’t do what celebrities do, and just slap on some sunglasses and a trench coat. Then I’d just be making a fashion statement.
Now that I think about it, getting around is going to be a pain. It doesn’t matter if ponies talk to me or not. They’ll stare, though. Everypony – by which I mean the ponies that look up at my balcony - always does. Sometimes that silent stare is worse than any cheesy comment that these ponies could think up – and I’ve heard some pretty bad ones.
I slump against my walking stick, allowing it to carry most of my weight as I look out from the shadowed awning of the hospital entrance. Such a nice city, filled with such nice ponies.
It’s funny to think that eight days ago, all I wanted to do was kill them.
Slowly, I shuffle out into the sunlight. I should really enjoy it while I can, because apparently there’s a heavy rain scheduled soon. I don’t really remember when.
I lean against the wall of the hospital, soaking up the sunlight. Maneworthy will probably be out to escort me soon.
“Oh wow! It’s you!”
Two teenage stallions and a mare – all of them unicorns - quickly trot over. They look to be roughly the same age of the Mane Six – but that’s just my thoughts. Sometimes It can be a little hard to tell the ages here, as ponies age differently to humans.
“Hey there.” I force out weakly, plastering an equally transparent smile on my face.
“Wow, I can’t believe we’re meeting you!” One of the stallions gushes. “You’re amazing!”
“Yeah!” The mare joins in. “I wish could play as good as you!”
I smile and thank them both, before the other stallion speaks. He seems markedly less jubilant than the other two.
“I’m, uh… sorry, about… Trixie.” He says softly, jarring the other two into silence. “We… we aren’t all like that, you know.”
My smile has turned much weaker, but I still manage to pat the stallion on shoulder – well, the general shoulder area.
“I know. It’s… It's fine. I’m being taken care of.”
The three teens are silent, shifting awkwardly on their hooves.
“Hey!” The awkward situation is interrupted by Maneworthy, who still seems to be in defence mode. “What are you three doing?”
I turn to Maneworthy as he canters over, his face fixed in a irritated frown. "It-"
“He isn’t well enough to be putting up with this. Get out of here.” He snaps at the teens, all of which turn and gallop away before I can say that I don't mind.
I sigh and close my mouth, watching dejectedly as the teens race off. That's three alienated ponies right there.
“Is it just me…” I ease myself off the wall with a little groan. “…or am I getting everypony in trouble today?”
“They should really know better.” Maneworthy has clearly been placed in a bad mood by morning’s events. “We should go. We’re running late.”
“Yeah. Sure.” I really don’t feel like arguing. This is the first time that I’ve seen the doctor behaving as anything aside from a cheerful and friendly pony. It would seem that he has a low tolerance for incompetence.
We begin our slow walk through the city, with any pony that tries to approach immediately warded-off by one of Maneworthy’s vehement glares. We’d be making much better time if I was a little more mobile and a lot less stiff.
After a few minutes of what I can only describe as an angry silence, I feel compelled to try cheer Maneworthy up – even if it was simply to alleviate the tension.
“Canterlot truly is beautiful.” I remark awkwardly, making a point of exaggeratedly looking around. “Everything is so beautifully crafted, and quite clean.”
“It isn’t all like this.” Maneworthy replies, his voice still laced with irritation. “I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is the most upscale district in the city.”
“Mmm…” I nod, glancing at one of the many ponies who are needlessly wearing the shirt halves of tuxedos. “How bad do they get?”
“Not so much as ‘bad’.” Maneworthy replies without a hint of snobbishness. “…Just more in the way of being less glamorous. You’d be able to criss-cross every single street in the city, and never find one as clean as these.”
“Except for the palace, of course.” I add. That’s a given – and it’s also why Maneworthy isn’t speaking with the intolerable level of pride the show portrayed Canterlot ponies as possessing. He lives in the palace. How the rest of the city looks is of no real concern to him.
“Except for the palace.” The doctor agrees. His voice still isn’t prideful, but it also now lacks the irritation it held earlier. Progress if ever I casually listened to it.
“Wow. The palace is nice.” I speak softly, looking up at the graceful archers and turrets of Canterlot’s biggest structure. It’s much more impressive and far more beautiful from this angle. The view from the hospital does it no justice at all compared to this.
“Like I said… The best kept part of Canterlot.” Maneworthy still doesn’t look exactly ‘happy’, but he doesn’t look ready to slap somepony either. For now, that’s enough.
I nod, and follow him inside. My nerves are mounting. It’s time to meet the princesses. The princesses. The two that control the sun and the moon, and hold undisputed rule over all of Equestria. Will Cadance be there?
What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to do? I don’t have the proper social training to converse with royalty. I can’t even carry myself with grace – not with this wound so fresh.
Looking down at my clothes, I realize that my clothes aren’t nearly fit enough for royalty. I had a damn tuxedo, and I chose this crap. I should have dressed as smart as I possibly could have. What was I thinking? What is wrong with me?
Maneworthy gives me an odd look as we arrive in the lobby, and I realize that my face must be fixed in a mask of outer mortification.
“Are you alright?”
I am definitely not alright. I’ve practically curled over my walking stick, and I’m starting to panic.
“No, no.” I mumble. “I chose the wrong clothes. Not good enough. Do we have time to go back?”
Maneworthy stares at me like I’ve gone mad – although I understand why. It took thirty minutes for me to hobble over here, and I doubt I’d be able to handle another round trip anyway.
“You must be joking.”
I turn away, tugging at my collar. “Damn it, what was I thinking?” My voice is strained. “I’m not ready to meet the princesses! I’m not in the right clo- Oh my god, I haven’t had a shower since I woke up.” My hand comes up to my face. “I need to shave… Shower… my teeth…”
“Calm down.” Maneworthy says slowly, and I can see the other ponies in the entry hall looking worried. Of all the things to have a breakdown over, why this? “Everything’s fine. It doesn’t matter how you look.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t matter?” I exclaim incredulously. “I’m meeting the princesses!”
I see a white guardpony in the corner of my vision. He looks on-edge, and uncertain. Having to learn the possible dangers for a strange species such as humans must be a security nightmare.
Maneworthy’s horn lights up, and I feel my arms becoming constricted.
The presence of the doctor’s magic has two effects on me. It manages to jolt me back to reality, but at the same time, it infuses me with an intense sensation of Claustrophobia – one of the more noticeable mental scars of my ordeal.
My panic attack interrupted, I go rigid, tensing up as Maneworthy stares at me with concern.
“Maybe we should have waited until after the psychological profiling to bring you outside.”
“No, no.” I take a deep breath, refusing to look down at my arms. “I’m fine. Everything’s… I’m fine. Just give me my arms back. Please.”
Maneworthy stares at me with more than a little scepticism.
“Doctor, we…” I flex my wrists. “We have a meeting to get to, and…” I take a nervous gulp. “And if you don’t let go of my wrists right now, then I’m probably going to just freak out some more.”
Maneworthy nods, now understanding what is happening, and releases me. I refrain from stretching, which is what I really want to do at the moment, and simply give a little sigh.
Everypony is watching my shame unfold in all of its glory, and it’s all I can do not to curl up in a ball, or slam my head through the marble floor like some sort of super-ostrich. I’ve managed to thoroughly humiliate myself over practically nothing.
I’m in a bad condition. I know that, Maneworthy knows that, and twilight knows that. It would be surprising if the princesses didn’t also know, so why would they care how I look?
Maneworthy guides me over to a sitting cushion, and gets me to sit down. “We can spare a few minutes, Catch your breath for a section.” He speaks soothingly, leaving me to my thoughts.
I sit in place numbly, looking down at my crossed legs. Most of the ponies in the hall are still looking at me. What are they thinking?”
I listen disinterestedly as Maneworthy crosses the hall, and speaks to a pair of the guards and a few other ponies.
“I’m very sorry. His condition isn’t exactly stable, but he’s here to meet the princesses.”
So now he’s covering for me. That really raises my self esteem.
Well, except that he isn’t.
Who am I kidding? I’m still in terrible condition. It took so long to hobble my way over here, and it barely took a nudge to send me into a panic. It doesn’t matter if my wound’s healing well, what I need is to see a psychiatrist, or a psychologist, or a therapist. Hell, I have no clue which one deals with what.
I've been listening to Maneworthy since I woke up, taking everything he says as the ‘word of god’. It only occurs to me now that he is a physician, and I shouldn’t listen to anything he says regarding my mental state.
It’s not like I think any less of him now. I’m actually more pissed-off at myself. This is what happens when I don’t think – I have a humiliating breakdown in public that I can only bear to acknowledge because everypony will attribute it to my ordeal.
It’s only when Maneworthy begins to speak once more, keeping his voice slow and measured like the day I woke up, that I realise he has returned.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“I’d be lying if I said yes.” I reply glumly, uncrossing my legs and leaning back slightly. “But I’m okay for the meeting, I promise.”
“Okay then, if you feel that you’re able to continue, then let’s go meet the princesses.”
I nod. Maneworthy is an excellent doctor – I mean, he healed me when he’d never treated a human before – but he’s definitely not trained in dealing with mental issues. I’m sure any licensed practitioner would force me back to the hospital, lest I hurt somepony.
I really have to appreciate the way this world works. Back on earth, I’d be in a padded cell by now, what with the whole 'talking ponies' angle. In comparison, Maneworthy is still willing to let me go and see the princesses, even after a minor breakdown.
I just hope that it won’t be a choice he regrets.